John Gotti, Jr.
Prior to his 1992 conviction for murder and racketeering, John Gotti, boss of the Gambino family, made his son a capo. Gotti realized that the “big pinch” was coming, and he prepared to run his crime family from behind bars. When he went to prison, he named his son acting boss, which gave John Jr. the authority to convey his father’s orders to the family.
As a relative, Junior was permitted to visit his father in the federal prison in Marion, Illinois, and he did so twice a month. They were separated by a thick Plexiglas partition, and no exchange of notes was permitted and could only talk over a phone monitored by guards; yet it was said that Junior had little trouble deciphering his father’s orders on mob affairs. It was believed Gotti made himself clear through eye movements and voice inflections so that sometimes the opposite of what was said was the real message.
There was considerable doubt that Gotti would be able to continue as boss from behind bars, partly because of his son’s arrogant style, which at times alienated Gambino associates. (The press capitalized on his arrogance and labeled him the “baby monster” after he was arrested for his role in two youthful brawls.) Even though the elder Gotti could be extremely vicious, he could also turn on considerable charm. While Gotti was famed for his finely tailored suits, his son dressed like a slob in jogging clothes. And while the elder Gotti lived in a nondescript house in middle-class Howard Beach, his son moved into a $700,000 home in exclusive Oyster Bay on Long Island. Everything about the younger Gotti irritated certain mobsters.
In January 1998 Junior was arrested and indicted along with 139 others. The charges included telecommunications and construction fraud, labor racketeering, loan-sharking and extorting money from a topless nightclub on Manhattan’s Upper East Side named Scores, a favorite of celebrities and tourists. The mob reportedly extorted everyone from the owners to the coat-check girls, parking attendants and topless dancers, and the take was said to be in the millions.
Junior’s lawyer called the indictment weak and “a bit silly.” The only reason Junior was being charged, the lawyer insisted, “is his name.” He said young Gotti had never even been to Scores. “He has nothing to do with Scores. He absolutely detests those places. He thinks they are degrading to women and disgusting.”
Obviously the authorities hoped the indictments would cause chaos within the crime family. Lewis D. Schiliro, acting director of the New York office of the FBI, declared, “Yet another generation at the top of the Gambino family chart will soon be gone.” And he added about Junior’s situation, “It doesn’t pay to be No. 1.”
Junior did not remain No. 1 for long. Surprising most observers he suddenly copped a plea, not emulating his father by toughing it out in great style. It became known that Junior conferred with his father, who okayed his son making a deal, one that represented closure, assurance that prosecutors would bring no other charges and that his sentence would run between 70 and 87 months. Would this finally break the Gotti hold on the crime family? The betting was that the senior Gotti would try to continue using a pipeline to the mob via his brother Peter.